I’ve talked about Sierra Nevada a couple times before, both in the vertical tasting of their Bigfoot Barleywine, and also last when I reviewed the Harvest Wet Hop. I dont think I will ever run out of amazing things to say about this brewery, mostly because they keep giving me easy reasons to love them so much.
Most recently, Sierra Nevada’s current project is called Sierra 30: A collaboration of Pioneering Brewers… Love it! It is literally exactly that, Sierra Nevada is celebrating their 30th year as a craft brewery by honoring some of the people who helped pioneer craft brewing to the remarkable state that it is now. There are four beers in this series to be released throughout the year, the first being Fritz and Ken’s Ale, a deep rich stout for the ages.
More so, I think that this is a beautiful project exemplifies the passion and heart that now many real people put into their beer; all the funds raised from sales of these beers go directly to local charities. Well done guys, you are an shinning example for us all.
Ken Grossman is the owner and founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing, and its a true father of craft beer. After spending years home brewing, ken built his own brewery out of recycled steel and used dairy equipment. Soon, his first beer, the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale would become an iconic blueprint for what an American Pale Ale should be.
Fritz Maytag, in a similar light is really the godfather of craft brewing in America. In 1965 he saved the then bankrupted Anchor Brewing Company in San Fransisco, and thus changed the face of craft brewing forever. His beers were among the first to lead America out of its bland pale lager funk, and into a world of flavor, spice, and all things nice.
Fritz and Ken’s collaboration is a beer style which they each tie back to their earliest memories of real beer; a stout. This stout was brewed to be rich and roasty, and perfect for ageing – if you have the patience. It was released in mid march, and will last only as long as the bottles do. It comes in a custom 750ml corked bottle with a striking logo design, and is 9.2% abv.
I had a lot of fun just getting ready to enjoy this beer, I was really excited just to have a bottle. But once I opened it, the real fun began. It pours smooth and black with massive deep browns which glimmer only against the light. Upon closer inspection it is really an oil like black with practically no hue to be found. A thick one and a half inch head lifted a soft mokah brown atop the beer with huge air pockets and creamy density.
The nose is big and wide pouring at your with rich roasted malts, young dark and chocolate malts, powerful west coast hop aromatics, and biscuits. It has a very deep sweetness built into it that fades to make way for smoke, roast, more roast, and a touch of bitter chocolate. The hops bring some earthy life to the beer, and also leather and coffee beans show life and added complexity.
Let this stout out at cellar temperature, between 12 to 14C (54 – 57F) to to allow the rich aromas and flavors to properly soothe your palate. And soothe it does, but not without much power. Roasted malts, espresso, touches of smoke and char melt over your tongue immediately. They bring with them wide malt character, black fruit sweetness and earthy leather flavors. It is powerful and robust with a huge ink-like mouthfeel, and actually seems like it is much heavier than 9.2%.
Shortly though herbal hops come in with bitter chocolate and dried fruit such as plums, dates and figs add some sweetness to balance out an otherwise bitter and roasty stout. As it warmed, more malt character evolved into caramel and chocolate, roast subdued slightly making way for coffee and cocoa beans, and the mouthfeel became more luscious and creamy. It was very much a sublime treat.
The finish is soft and long with huge amounts of dark chocolate and more espresso, still with a wisp of smoke and roast. It has a touch of sweet earth at the end, and leaves me wanting more.
This was an impressive collaborative beer, and really should age exceptionally well. It excites me to see what will come next in the Sierra 30 Series, but until then, I will just try to get my hands on another bottle of this black stout.